Alpaca fiber is soft like cashmere, warmer than wool, stronger than wool and oh-so soft. I am an avid downhill skier and like to stay warm and comfortable. Itching is not for me. I tried different types of fabrics and really liked the warmth of wool but was always left uncomfortable. I tried wearing layers to keep the wool away from my skin but then found that too many layers would bunch up. Then I tried a sweater made with alpaca fiber. I was hooked. The softness of alpaca comes from the fiber itself. If you look at the alpaca fiber shaft under a microscope it is smooth. The scales on the fiber lay down close to the shaft. Looking at wool under the microscope you will see the scales fbt optical splitter curled and sticking out along the shaft of the fiber, thus creating the “itch factor”.
Wool is warm but has a few disadvantages, not least that wool products can be itchy and spiky feeling against the skin. Alpaca is warmer than wool because of the small air pockets within the fiber that hold in the warmth from the body and keep me insulted and warm. The fiber has been studied and it has been proven to be stronger than wool, thus a good product should last longer than traditional wool products. That is good for my budget too. I am lucky not to be bothered by lanolin. Some people are allergic to lanolin, the greasy substance produced by animals such as sheep to waterproof their wool. Whereas sheep produce lanolin, animals such as the South American alpaca do not, meaning their wool is hypoallergenic and alpaca fiber products are suitable for use in baby clothes and for those with sensitive skin.
Alpaca fiber is much like wool and will wick perspiration away from my skin yet repels water when exposed to the elements. This is extremely important to me as a skier, hiker and generally active person. Wicking fabrics are always a consideration for me. I make sure I am purchasing good quality alpaca. Some products brought in from South America are NOT soft. I always find out where the item was purchased or produced. If it doesn’t come from a reputable manufacturer, I can end up with a very poor quality that can make a scratchy and undesirable article of clothing. I also make sure the piece is not mixed with wool.
The wonderful texture and feel of alpaca products is becoming better known as people searching for natural clothing discover the benefits of the material. The range of alpaca fiber products that can be purchased is also on the increase. There are a variety of alpaca products on the market. Socks, booties, bonnets, dresses and many other items will help keep baby snug, warm and comfortable. For adults there are scarves, hats and gloves as well as ranges of elegant and fashionable cardigans and shrugs. Maybe even more surprisingly, bags made of alpaca fiber that are practical, unusual and pleasing looking, are available.